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USC FOOTBALL

Booty Makes Commitment

March 11, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

USC is not yet sure who will be its starting quarterback next season, but the Trojans were feeling confident about the long-range future of the position on Monday.

John David Booty, a high school junior regarded by some as the top football player in the Class of 2004, made a commitment to USC on Saturday during an unofficial visit to the campus.

Booty, 6 feet 3 and 190 pounds, passed for nearly 4,000 yards last season while leading Evangel Christian High in Shreveport, La., to its second consecutive 5-A state title. Booty is the younger brother of former Louisiana State quarterback Josh Booty, who plays for the Cleveland Browns. Their father, John, is the coach at Evangel Christian.

Booty's commitment came a little more than a month after USC signed one of the nation's top recruiting classes, which included Ryan Watson, a 6-4, 280-pound defensive tackle from Curtis High in River Ridge, La. It was a class, however, that lacked a quarterback because top prospects Kyle Wright and Chris Leak opted to sign with Miami and Florida, respectively.

The NCAA forbids college coaches from commenting about high school players until they receive signed letters of intent in February. But USC Coach Pete Carroll and his staff are ecstatic about the commitment from Booty, who plans to graduate early and enroll at USC for the spring 2004 semester.

"For USC to go out of the gate here in early March, it shows they have a take-no-prisoners attitude," said Allen Wallace of SuperPrep magazine, who has been tracking recruiting since 1985. "Booty's poised, he's big, he has a strong arm and he can run."

Booty and his brother and father attended USC workouts Friday and Saturday, when they saw redshirt junior Matt Cassel, redshirt freshmen Matt Leinart and Billy Hart and junior transfer Brandon Hance competing for the opportunity to replace Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer next season.

On Saturday, immediately after a practice that was attended by about 400 fans, Booty said he enjoyed the weather in Southern California, the style of the Trojan offense and the way he was embraced by USC players.

"It seems like a great place to go to school and play football," said Booty, who added that he was also considering Tennessee and other programs.

Booty said he hoped to make a college decision before his senior season. By the end of the day, his mind was apparently made up and he committed to the Trojans.

Booty's commitment will not be official until he signs a letter of intent in February, so other schools, especially those in the South, are expected to continue recruiting him aggressively.

Wallace said Booty's commitment is a byproduct of receiver Mike Williams' success last season. Williams attended high school in Tampa, Fla., an area where previous USC recruiters rarely ventured. Williams had a record-setting freshman season.

"This USC staff made a very intelligent and savvy decision to bust out of the gates and go long -- to go after guys USC normally thought they would have had no shot at," Wallace said.

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